Time in probabilistic causation: direct vs. indirect uses of lexical causative verbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is traditionally assumed that lexical causative verbs (e.g. kill) express direct causationonly, while periphrastic (bi-clausal) causatives (e.g. cause to die) may also express indirectcausation. In favour of this constraint, Fodor famously observed that the (change of) state introducedby lexical causative verbs is not accessible for separate adverbial modification by temporal(or manner) adverbials. In this paper, I present old and new arguments against the direct causationconstraint under the definitions of directness of Fodor and Wolff. I then propose a new definitionof directness in terms of ab-initio causal sufficiency framed in Kvart’s probabilistic account ofsingular causation. I argue that directness so redefined is an implicature rather than an entailmentof lexical causative verbs, which enables me to account for old and new data. Furthermore, I accountfor why the constraint on separate modification by temporal adverbials can be relaxed witheventuality-denoting subjects.Keywords: lexical causative verbs, direct vs. indirect causation, causal sufficiency, probabilistictheories of causation, semantics/pragmatics interface.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-124
Number of pages18
JournalZAS Papers in Linguistics
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Time in probabilistic causation: direct vs. indirect uses of lexical causative verbs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this